Inconsistent witnesses: Sestoso murder case dismissed by 4 fiscals

The city prosecuctors office has dismissed the murder charges against three suspects in the death of broadcaster Edmund Sestoso due to insufficiency of evidence for the crime as charged.

The resolution, dated August 20, 2018 was handed down by Assistant Prosecutors Alvin A. Aseniero, May Flor V. Duka and Associated City Prosecutor Julito N. Lumusad and approved by city prosecutor Joseph Arnel M. Zerna.

Findings of the prosecutors showed inconsistencies on the testimonies of the star witness Rene Panday Estorco and that of two other witnesses, namely, the pedicab driver Edgar L. Baldomar and Romie M. Torres who was working at that time at a battery and spear crafting shop located along Aldecoa Drive, barangay Daro where the shooting incident took place on April 30, 2018.

Estorco said he knew Sestoso being a “kumpare” and he also happened to know the gunman and the driver having been introduced to him by his friends in Barangay Isugan, Bacong last September 17, 2017 during the birthday of a friend. The gunman and the driver were introduced to him by their nicknames as Ka Mokong, the alleged gunman and the driver as Ka Sherwin, and that they were cousins from Guihulngan city and members of the NPA.

That he met these two again in December 2017 until January 2018 when they visited him at the PPA housing in Cadawinonan. That the two talked about their uncle who is an NPA commander being framed up by Sestoso which resulted to his arrest by the Tanjay police and charged with illegal posesion of firearms and explosives. Hence, they wanted to take revenge against Sestoso.

In his counter-affidavit, Jose Rene Bustamante, also known as Ka Pediong, Ka Jade Hervias, Ka Jury Merecido in the charge sheet, denied all the allegations. He argued that witness Estorco was not truthful and was utilized to advance another trump-up case against him or that he is being used as a decoy by the real culprits in the murder of the victim in order to hide their guilt or a paid witness by the authorities to cover their inadequacies.

Bustamante said he does not have relatives by the nicknames of Ka Mokong and Ka Sherwin and he is not also from Guihulngan City. That the testimonies of Estorco are double hearsay in nature and that the source of the alleged information implicating him to the charge as alleged by Ka Mokong and Ka Sherwin whom he could not even confront nor cross examine to determine the credibility of their stories.

In fact, the surviving spouse Lourdes had withdrawn from the case because she does not believe in the theory of the police.

Bustamante further said in essence that he was taken into custody by the military and the police last June 2014 and charged for the death of one Narciso Bantoto Jr and that he met Sestoso during a media briefing. He said Sestoso is his reserve witness in that case as a media practitioner, as his defense. Bustamante also denied he has nephews or relatives who are named Sherwin and Mokong or that he has a brother and sister who is a resident of any barangay in Guihulngan City.

After going over the allegations, the assigned prosecutors Asiniero, Duka and Lumusad, said the documentary evidence as well as the arguments of the parties, it finds no probable cause to charge all the respondents in court for the crime of murder.

They said that insofar as the charge against Bustamante is concerned, there is nothing in the evidence of the police that would directly or indirectly implicate him to the crime committed.

The resolution further said that there is nothing to show or even remotely suggest that he ordered or masterminded or even was aware of the alleged plans of Ka Mokong and Ka Sherwin to kill Sestoso. It appears that the plan, if true, is only among Ka Sherwin and Ka Mokong.

In his sworn statement, Estorco claimed that he was driving his owner type jeep from East to West direction and saw two persons on board a motorcycle overtook him and stopped beside a parked motorcab for hire. And when the passenger of the motorcycle alighted, later known as Sestoso, the backrider of the motorcycle likewise alighted and fire a shot hitting Sestoso on the leg. Estorco further alleged that after the first shot, four more successive shots were then fired prompting Sestoso to fell to the ground and then the gunman boarded a waiting motorcycle.

But two more witnesses gave, different versions. The trike driver Baldomar said in his affidavit that the victm was about to give the fare when suddenly, a motorcycle with two occupants appeared beside him. The backrider tapped his back with both hands and announced in the dialect which means “don’t move,” and then heard successive burst of gunfire and saw Sestoso sitting and leaning on a parked colored pink multicab bloodied and then the gunman disembarked from the motorcycle and fired another shot towards the victim, before fleeing going west.

Another witness identified as Romie Maghanoy Torres also narrated that he was inside the battery and spear crafting shop when he heard successive burst of gunfires coming from the opposite side of the shop. When he looked up he saw a bloodied male person sitting and leaning on a pink multicab. Then he noticed the man holding a handgun disembarked from a motorcycle and approached the wounded Sestoso and fired several shots in different parts of his body.

The witness crossed the street and helped by loading the victim in a parked tricycle but it was found out to have a flat tire and so the victim was transferred to another tricycle and brought by concerned citizen to the hospital.

The three prosecutors said that it is clear from the statements of Estorco that the backrider of the motorcycle alighted first before firing his gun.

However, this claim was contradicted by the two other witnesses who claimed that Sestoso was first shot by the gunman while said gunman was still riding on board the motorcycle. And it was only after shots were fired that the gunman alighted from the motorcycle.

Estorco’s claim that only one initial shot was fired then followed by four successive shots was again contradicted by the two other witnesses who claimed there was an initial successive burst of gunfire.

Contrary to the claim of Estorco that Sestoso fell to the ground only after the first gunshot , the two witnesses claimed that on the first successive gunburst or shots alone, the victim was already sitting meaning he was already on the ground.

In addition, Estorco paints a picture that he cares for his kumpare Sestoso by even bringing the latter to the hospital, yet he did not bring Sestoso on board his driven jeep which is the most convenient and fastest means of transport to the hospital but instead have to flag down a tricycle after it was discovered that the first tricycle has a flat tire.

Additionally, in the police certification, it mentioned that the persons who brought Sestoso the hospital were concerned bystanders and not a passerby like Estorco. Likewise, Estorco was not among those appearing in the 40 pictures that were taken of the crime scene when the police arrived and at the hospital.

Moreover, no pictures of the dead body of Ka Mokong was submitted to the cityu prosecutors office that would support Estorco’s claim that he was also killed by riding in tandem suspects in La Libertad and that there was also no picture submitted to show that Estorco indeed identified Ka Sherwin at the hospital after surviving from a shooting incident also in La Libertad.jrg